Why you should sweat the small stuff

Kevin Halloran is a blogger at KevinHalloran.net and for Unlocking the Bible and loves baseball, coffee, and Spanish. You can follow Kevin on Twitter @KP_Halloran.

The book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff has been popular since its 1996 release because it teaches not to let the small things in life bog you down. For the most part, I think that the book’s message is a noble one, and something Christ followers can benefit from. I do think there are some small stuff you should sweat. Let me explain.


When I say we “should sweat the small stuff,” I don’t mean we should worry about mundane things.

As Christians, we know that we are to be anxious about nothing (Philippians 4:6-7). I do mean that we should seek to glorify God by putting forth effort (sweat) to make the “small stuff” in our lives bear the most fruit for Christ. We should recognize that a lot of “small stuff” often makes up the greater whole of our lives.

The daughter of a friend of mine was born without much hair. Throughout the first 12 months of her life, she did not have much hair to speak of, and it did not appear to be growing quickly. I would see her about every weekend and at a certain point I began to see a noticeable difference in her hair that her parents and aunts didn’t always notice. Something that I noticed each week was not very visible day-to-day.

Growth is not usually noticeable day-to-day like it is over the long haul. But it is day-to-day growth that makes long term growth what it is. That growth is made up of “small stuff.”

Scripture mentions this idea at least a couple of times: we are called to redeem the time (Colossians 4:5) and make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16).

There is an unlimited number of examples to illustrate this point: grass grows a little each day before it needs cutting, going to school each day over time produces an education, practicing the spiritual disciplines each day builds a stronger Christian.

This means realizing that our small decisions and small pockets of time we make are part of a bigger work that God is doing in us.

During my college days, I had the great opportunity to study abroad in Ecuador and improve my Spanish quite a bit. Since that time, I have desired to grow my Spanish abilities for ministry– but I have not been able to learn and practice as much as I would like. In spite of that, I have seen that sowing little seeds like reading the Bible in Spanish daily, listening to music in Spanish, and making Spanish speaking friends has reaped a big harvest in my language skills.

The small choices I made had a compounding effect. Those small choices helped me improve a skill that otherwise I would have not had time for. Praying about this idea and meditating on the sovereignty of God gives me hope for two reasons:

  1. During the daily grind, I can remember that God will use what I am able to give him
  2. I can remember that God has control of everything and will accomplish his purposes in me

What small stuff can you do each day to better serve the Lord? How can you apply this principle to your study of Scripture or prayer life? Your professional life? Your family life? Your ministry?

My prayer is that God in his grace would continually to use the small stuff in our lives for his glory and purposes.

Delight and Grow!


Today’s post is by Andrew Hall. Andrew is the Lead Pastor of Community Bible Church in Ilderton, Ontario (a small community just outside of London). He and his wife, Melanie, have been married for over 13 years and have four kids. Andrew studied at Providence College University in Otterburne, MB and received my M.Div from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, and blogs at cruciformity.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewWHall.

One of my favourite past times has been taking seeds and growing little plants. Throughout the years, I’ve enjoyed growing little orange trees from my breakfast fruit; coffee trees from some beans that never got roasted; maple trees from the keys that fell from a neighbour’s glorious tree. There is something so incredible about planting, watering, and watching growth.

In gardening, there is something that feels like we are pushing against the curse that came when Adam disobeyed. There is the expectation of growth, of new life, of a future. There is the anticipation of fruitfulness, a harvest, and reward.

So it is no surprise that the Christian is expected to grow. The imperishable seed is planted within (1 Peter 1:23), germinates and creates new life, all with the expectation that there will be fruitfulness in our lives (Gal 5:22-23). The power of Christ’s death and resurrection applied by faith to the soul is the guarantee of a harvest to come in the lives of God’s people (Rom 8:23).

But what is striking is that we are commanded to grow. I cannot command a plant or seed to grow. But 2 Peter 3:18 tells us that we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. How shall we do that?

Growing in knowledge seems fairly straightforward: to grow in knowledge requires the intake of information. Reading, watching, listening all give us opportunity to grow in knowledge. But what about growing in grace? How can Peter command that we grow in grace?

The best fertilizer for life and godliness is the knowledge of God’s grace to us now and forever. Grace is multiplied in the knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:2). In other words, grace is multiplied when we come to know who God is and what he is like.

What if you knew a fraction of the future that God has prepared for you? What if you could feel your deepest longings being satisfied? What if every sight, smell, sound, taste and touch will only be magnified? What if every good and right relationship will be restored forever? What if we could believe that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind comprehended what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9), wouldn’t we rejoice? Fight temptation? Be freed from fear, greed, envy, and pride? We would escape the corruption in this world and become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)!!!

That’s what knowing God does. Our need to grow in the knowledge of his grace will never cease. We will forever see the nail-scarred hands of our Saviour and grow in wonder and amazement from age to age to age (Eph 2:7). Our growth in grace is God’s declaration that the curse is not the final word…Grace is!

So grow! Know God! Delight in Him! Make it your aim to never be satisfied with your knowledge of God. Be a beggar for knowing Him. And His grace to you will multiply, and that fertilizer will cause you to grow!

Rejoice! The Lord is More Patient Than Us


Today’s post is by Andrew Hall. Andrew is the Lead Pastor of Community Bible Church in Ilderton, Ontario (a small community just outside of London). He and his wife, Melanie, have been married for over 13 years and have four kids. Andrew studied at Providence College University in Otterburne, MB and received my M.Div from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, and blogs at cruciformity.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewWHall.

Have a headache? Pop a liquid gel caplet and within 30 minutes it’s working. Hungry? Place your dish in the microwave and enjoy a hot dish in 30 seconds. Want to find and read a book? Go online and download it within 15 seconds and start reading. Want to contact someone? Text them to get an immediate response.

The blessings of living in an instantaneous society mean that we become accustomed to the immediacy and availability of everything. But the moment you are on hold on the phone for 15 minutes or wait for paperwork to come in the mail, we can become antsy. “Where is it?” “Why is it taking so long?” Impatience flares up and agitation grows.

“Behold, I am coming soon,” says the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev 22:12), and nearly two thousand years has passed. We can begin to doubt the imminent return of Christ, living like everything is continuing on as it was from the beginning of creation until now. While we don’t say it out loud, we can live in a way that says, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:4).

Waiting feels very passive: standing in line, being on hold, waiting for the microwave to beep all feel like we do nothing until something happens. Is it possible that our perception of Christ’s delay in returning causes some lethargy in us as well? An impatience with God? A sense of frustration that things aren’t getting “fixed” in our lives as quickly as we would like?

It is a good thing that God is not like us and is incredibly patient. The fact that Christ has not returned is evidence of God’s great kindness toward us. We may think, “If I were God, I would eradicate all evil NOW!” Our outrage at injustice and evil in the world can cause us to accuse God of inactivity. But if we were to get rid of all the evil in the world, we would have to rid the universe of all potential evil. But what about our capacity for being mean-spirited, accusatory, assuming the worst of another? Are we ready to give an account for all of our actions?

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,” says Peter (2 Peter 3:9). Christ has not yet come because God is kind and holds out the offer of salvation. His patience is our opportunity to be active.

Maybe God’s patience is for you. Have you turned from trusting yourself and relied upon Christ? Or maybe an opportunity to turn from sin and repent afresh (1 John 3:2-3).

Or maybe God’s patience is for someone you know and love. Have you shared with them the good news of life in Christ through repentance and faith?

Today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2)! Believe! Obey! Share! And thank God that his patience is for our mercy!

The Power of Words


Today’s post is by Andrew Hall. Andrew is the Lead Pastor of Community Bible Church in Ilderton, Ontario (a small community just outside of London). He and his wife, Melanie, have been married for over 13 years and have four kids. Andrew studied at Providence College University in Otterburne, MB and received my M.Div from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, and blogs at cruciformity.com.

Therefore, brothers,be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in uthe truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention has to a lamp shining in a dark place, until ithe day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet. 1:10-21)

His children were being threatened, and he held nothing back. He told his children to watch out for these accursed children, creatures of instinct, blights, having eyes full of adultery, ravenous for sin, hearts trained for greed. These enslaved people would have been better off if they had never known the truth because they are like dogs returning to their vomit.

These are not the words of some angry lowbrow peasant. These are the inspired words of Scripture. So why does Peter speak this way (2 Peter 2:10b-21)? To our modern Western ears, this sounds offensive. But what do you do when someone is preying on the weak, enticing the immature by sensuality, enslaving unsteady souls? If someone is going after your child with perversion, wouldn’t you be justifiably angry?

In order to protect the flock from wolves, there are times where a severe mercy is necessary. Sometimes shocking language and vivid imagery get the point across in ways that gentle answers can’t. [Read more…]

The Miracle of Salvation


The grotto of Gethsemane, where it is believed that Jesus was arrested following Judas’ betrayal. Photo by Gary Hardman

Today’s post is by Brandon Smith. Brandon has been a pastor for many years and is currently a church planting resident at CityView Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He holds a B.A. in Bible from Dallas Baptist University and is a Systematic Theology student at Criswell College. Brandon edits Project TGM, a new blog bringing perspective to theology, gospel, and mission and their impact on culture. Connect with him on Twitter at @BrandonSmith85.

Growing up in a non-Christian home, I didn’t know what conversion to Christianity looked like. As far as I was concerned, my friends were Christians because their parents were, and their parents were Christians because of their parents. I mean, who would decide on their own to refrain from watching certain movies or go gather with a bunch of people on Sunday morning and listen to someone preach at them for an hour?

Christianity sounded like a lame hobby and was definitely not something that interested me.

The hobby God

I live and work in the Dallas-Fort worth area, and here in the Bible Belt, Christianity is often assumed. We often assume that people are going to understand and accept our Christian standards. I’m guilty of this. There are times that I’m actually surprised to meet a non-Christian, even though I grew up in a non-Christian home.

What I’ve come to realize and have to remind myself constantly is that salvation is not an inherited hobby, but a supernatural transformation.

No one wakes up godly. No one is born a Christian. Jesus says in John 3 that a person must be born again to be saved. Sin is not a weak enemy, it’s a supernatural force that must be dealt with by an omnipotent, all-powerful God. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 that no one can say that Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. Belief in Christ takes an absolute act of God.

The miracle of salvation

For some reason, God chooses to use us in His grand plan for redeeming the world. Acts 16:25-34 paints a great picture of God’s sovereignty and our involvement in bringing redemption to the lost. We are going to see two followers of Christ used by God to bring about incredible change in a lost man and his family.

Let’s take notice of the events of this story:

I. Paul and Silas praise God despite their situation (v.25)

In the passages right before this, Paul and Silas had just driven an evil spirit out of a slave girl. This was a great thing for the girl, but a major inconvenience for her owners. This demon gave this girl the power to be a fortune-teller, and this was profitable for them. Without the demon, she was useless. So, they report Paul and Silas to the civil authorities for practicing a Jewish religion that wasn’t Roman.

Fast forward to their imprisonment, Paul and Silas – still bloody from the beating – are praying and singing hymns to God.

It is important to remember that God is still God, regardless of your situation. Suffering well is one of the most beautiful testimonies.

Paul and Silas did not let their imprisonment rob them of worship. Their situation was secondary compared to their relationships with God. Just like the apostles in Acts 5, Paul and Silas rejoiced in their suffering. They could’ve sat in their cell and complained or insulted the Roman jailer at the gate, but instead they gave glory to God. [Read more…]

There’s No Simple Formula for Assurance


Today’s post is by Andrew Hall. Andrew is the Lead Pastor of Community Bible Church in Ilderton, Ontario (a small community just outside of London). He and his wife, Melanie, have been married for over 13 years and have four kids. Andrew studied at Providence College University in Otterburne, MB and received my M.Div from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, and blogs at cruciformity.com.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. . . .Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:5-7, 10 ESV)

Paul had grown up in the church. He had heard all the stories, been at all the meetings, and served on various committees. But lately he was struggling – his church had been teaching that he should be prospering. Now, it didn’t feel like he was, and he was feeling blamed because he must not have enough faith.

When Burt stopped coming to church, everyone was shocked. A committed, solid Christian, he had suddenly disappeared off the church’s radar. He resisted visits from concerned friends, didn’t return calls or reply to emails and texts. Months later, his secret sins were exposed.

Janice had grown up in a pastor’s home. By all outward appearances, she was very Christian. She had grown up in a Christian home, attended a Christian school, learned Christian doctrine, even gone on mission trips. But when she began to be challenged by her atheistic co-workers, she didn’t have answers. She wasn’t certain that she had ever believed.

Geraldine was confident and assured. She had heard it over and over that once you were saved, you were always saved. She attended church, carried a Bible with her, and sang in the church choir. But that’s about where her “faith” ended. Religion and Jesus were a compartment in her life that didn’t seem to affect any other aspect of her life.

The Bible recognizes that we are complex creatures and that we struggle with assurance of salvation (or don’t!) for various reasons. For Paul, assurance lacked because of poor teaching. For Burt, his secret sins needed to be exposed and repented of before assurance would return. For Janice, her faith was now being tested and exposing her need to be diligent. And for Geraldine, her assurance was no evidence of a faith that worked.

Having assurance of salvation is no simple formula. Rather, assurance comes because we have put our faith in Jesus Christ alone and depend upon his perfect righteousness, not our own (2 Peter 1:2), and we depend upon Christ’s power to grow us into his likeness (2 Peter 1:4). Assurance comes by trusting in what Christ has done for us and growing in godliness. The “golden ladder” of 2 Peter 1:5-7 is the production of fruit from a life that abides in Christ. And faith produces the diligence of hard work to confirm that we belong to Him.

Wherever you are at, whatever you struggle with, remember these two truths: Christ died for you, and he has given all those who trust in him the power to grow. So be diligent! Know his great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4)! Don’t rely on spiritual experiences (2 Peter 1:16-18), but rely upon the more certain Word that you have heard (2 Peter 1:19-21). Believe, and know Christ has given you everything you need to live, obey, and grow!

11 Ways to Reignite Your Passion for the Bible


Today’s post is by Dave Jenkins. Dave is the Director of Servants of Grace Ministries. He and his wife are members at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Nampa, Idaho. You can follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveJJenkins.

I graduated from seminary on May 11, 2012, and, since then, friends have asked me:

“What’s the biggest transition you’ve had since graduating?”

Before I go into my answer to that question, I need to give a little background. I graduated high school in June 2000 (I’m thirty-one years old) and ever since graduating high school I’ve either been a full or part time student. The past two months have been the first time in my life where I wasn’t taking one or more classes at a community college, university or graduate school. So when my friends ask what the greatest transition has been for me, my consistent answer has been I’ve been enjoying my Bible reading a lot more. Depending on your own experiences, my answer may or may not surprise you.

In school, I spent a lot of time reading and re-reading the Bible over and over again. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy reading the Bible during this season of life; I’ve always enjoyed reading it. But after reading it academically for five years, I got to the point where I was reading more out of obligation than delight.

In the months since graduating, my passion for reading the Bible has only increased as I spend quality time every morning read the Word. If you’ve ever lost your passion, I hope the following helps you find it again, too.

First, grow in a love relationship with the Author of Scripture.

If a young woman received a love letter from her fiancée, she would eagerly read it since she is in love with the letter’s author. She would read and re-read those precious words, reading “between the lines” to discover the full richness of her lover’s message. Similarly, if we love God, we will find delight in the inspired words of God. Psalm 119:10-11, “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Love God and love His “love letter” to you—the Bible.

Second, have a personal relationship with God.

Even more basic than this loving God, the author of Scripture, the reader and interpreter of Scripture should strive to truly know God through Jesus Christ the Lord. You should have a deep and intimate relationship with God who inspired Scripture through the Holy Spirit (John 17:3; 2 Timothy 3:16). It is vital to remember that joy comes through the work of the Holy comes in our lives (Galatians 5:22). If you truly know God, in Christ Jesus and through the Spirit, you will be more prepared to rejoice in your Bible study.

Third, approach your Bible reading with worshipful awe.

It is vital that you have a proper attitude and frame of mind and heart as you open the pages of Scripture. For example, God says “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2b). Here we see that the one who comes to the Word should have a humble, contrite, and fearful (or respectful) attitude. You should approach it with a worshipful attitude, a fearful and respectful attitude, a submissive and yielding attitude, and a love for the God of Scripture.

Fourth, consider it an amazing privilege to read and study Scripture.

Until about the year 1500, the common person didn’t have the Scriptures in his or her own language. It took centuries before the Bible was translated and circulated in many of the world languages. Today, you have a priceless gift in your hands! You can read the Word of the living God and understand the Scriptures yourself, apart from false religious leaders censoring what you read! With this privilege comes tremendous responsibility.

Fifth, develop a real interest as you read a portion of Scripture.

Some people complain that their reading is dry and boring. It need not be this way. Develop a captivating interest in what you are reading. Ask yourself: “Why did Peter deny Jesus in this passage?” “Why did the Pharisees react so vehemently against Jesus as He declared His relationship with the Father?” “What was the nature of Judaizers that Paul seems to regularly combat?” Also, notice the choice of vocabulary, the connection between sentences, and the development of the argument in each book. This will arouse your curiosity, awaken your interest, and give you the joy of Bible discovery!

Sixth, ask the Lord to give you true joy as you read the Scriptures.

We know that spiritual joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23; Acts 13:52) that comes through Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:1). Ask God to stimulate this joy in your heart as you open yourself to His divine Word.

Seventh, find a quiet place and time to spend quality time reading the Scriptures.

You should be undisturbed in your reading so that you can think through the text as you read it. Don’t allow background noise, music, TV programs, or conversations to disturb your concentration. Even a crying baby can interfere with your focus on the text. Find a time when you can be alone and also a time when you are most awake and alert in your reading. For some, this may be at 5 AM and for others it may be 10 PM, while for others it may be lunchtime or some other time during the day.

Eighth, begin your time in the Bible with prayer.

Before you begin to read verses or chapters for the day, pause to ask God’s blessing on your reading, the clarity of your thought, and the conviction that the Spirit brings through the Word that He inspired. The psalmist prayed, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18). Don’t just rely on your reading ability; depend on God to enlighten you as you prayerfully read.

Ninth, examine the Bible portion carefully and prayerfully.

Don’t read the Bible as you would cursory read the newspaper. Recognize that the Scriptures are God’s inspired revelation of His will. Every word has been inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and should be scrutinized with intensity. “One who looks intensely at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). Read to see and understand what the Bible writers wrote.

Tenth, determine to read for spiritual benefit from the Lord.

Paul writes, “Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The Bible gives encouragement, but it also gives us warnings (1 Corinthians 10:11), all of which are profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Scripture gives us wisdom that leads to salvation (v. 15). The Word of God nourishes us (1 Timothy 4:6) and helps us to grow (1 Peter 2:2). If you keep the spiritual benefits of your Bible reading in mind, you can develop an unquenchable appetite for the Word. This will bring true joy!

Finally, always remember that you are seeking to know God’s will and obey it.

You should always bear in mind that you are not reading for mere curiosity, or to “do your duty,” or to compete with others. Instead, you are earnestly seeking to know what pleases God! We will be judged by Christ’s words (John 12:48), thus we should intently study that word to know it thoroughly. The Scriptures will keep us from sin: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). One time, someone wrote inside a Bible: “This Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”

At times, every Christian goes through periods where reading the Bible becomes a duty instead of a delight. But I believe that by applying some of the above suggestions, you’ll find a fresh interest and passion for reading and studying the Word of God.

As you continue to grow in the Scriptures and the grace of God, you will come to have a burning desire to read, study, learn and meditate on His Word. A.W. Tozer said, “The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.” As this happens, you will come to have a real enjoyment of His Word, a genuine delight in searching the Scriptures, and delight to understand and obey the Word of God.

Book Review: Women Helping Women by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Carol Cornish


Today’s post is by Kim Shay. Kim and her husband live in southwestern Ontario, where she’s spent the last 22 years primarily as a stay-at-home mom while teaching the Bible to women and serving on the Women’s Ministries committee at her local church. Kim blogs regularly at The Upward Call; follow her on Twitter at @UpwardCall.


As Christian women, it is inevitable that at some point we will be in a position to counsel another woman. Whether it is in a formal setting or an informal one with family or friends, as women, we need to be prepared to answer questions and advise in a biblical manner. We want to avoid handing out platitudes or, worse, error. Women Helping Women: A Biblical Guide to Major Issues Women Face is a valuable tool in that process. The editors, Elyse Fitzpatrick and Carol Cornish, set out to provide tools to help women counsel other women in order that they may live abundantly in Christ.

Women Helping Women is organized in two parts. The first sets the foundation for the biblical model of counseling, and specifically, the need for women to counsel women. The second section provides guidance with regard to a number of potential counseling situations. While the book can be used as a reference instead of read from beginning to end, the first part is crucial, as it establishes the difference between biblical and secular counseling. Fitzpatrick opens the section by emphasizing that biblical counseling is about vision, faith and hope. She reminds the reader that biblical counseling, obviously, begins with the Bible:

We believe the Bible is sufficient to answer every problem and meet every need that we, as God’s children have.

The following chapters are an outflow of that foundation. One of the necessities of biblical counselling is that women are encouraged to see how sin affects their circumstances. If a woman is not willing to accept that possibility, she will continue to struggle with her situation. This approach is not the approach of secular counseling, which frequently directs the counselee to place blame for her circumstances. Yes, people will sin against us, and we may have no control over how someone treats us, but that does not give us the freedom to sin in our reactions. Many of our problems are of our own making or are made worse by our own sin. [Read more…]

Can Christians Practice Ramadan?

Today’s post is by Paul Jenkins. Paul is a self-identified writing newbie, theology-lover, and in his better moments, an amateur evangelist. Paul and his wife, Susannah, attend Harvest Bible Chapel in London, Ontario. Paul co-authors the blog Laodecia Press and can be found on Twitter at @PJenkins70.

In Islam, Ramadan is a special month which is devoted to fasting, prayers, self-examination, scripture recital and reading, and deeds of charity. It is really interesting to read about this holiday which is certainly more religious for the average Muslim than Christmas is for the average professed ‘Christian’. The mandatory nature of this holiday is due to it being part of the fourth pillar of Islam.

What is even more interesting about Ramadan is that many of the main practices of this occasion are compliant with Christian beliefs and practices. The Bible specifically teaches on, and in some cases, commands Christians to do many of these things. Prayer, acts of charity and generosity, fasting, and reading/memorization/recital of Scripture are clearly laid out as acts that give glory to God. The Bible even references occasionally abstaining from marital relations for a time (1 Corinthians 7:5), which is part of Ramadan.

There are things that I admire about orthodox Muslims who practice Ramadan. They demonstrate a lot of discipline, self-control, devotion, and dedicate themselves to their scriptures. Conservative Muslims also demonstrate a lot of concern to follow orthodox, historical doctrines of their faith. Sadly, many Christians are devoid of these qualities.

On the surface, Ramadan seems like a holiday that even a Christian could practice. But the Bible says this:

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

(1 Samuel 16:7b)

A Muslim would probably agree with this principle. But beyond the outward rituals, what is Ramadan really about? [Read more…]

10 Helpful Resources on Family and Parenting


Today’s post is by Joey Cochran. Joey is married to Kendall, has two children (Chloe and Asher), and serves as a pastor at Fellowship Bible Church Tulsa. Joey blogs regluarly at jtcochran.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeyCochran.

Previously I wrote a post about parents who happen to pastor. Below is a list of recommended reading on parenting in general. I have collected this list over the past few years as I have processed my role as a parent. I still remember the first book on parenting that my wife and I ever read, “What to Expect When Expecting.” The first book we read gave my wife and I anxiety about parenting because it told us everything that could and would potentially go wrong. I assure you, the books in this list below are encouraging, helpful, and insightful works that will equip you to thrive as a parent.

  1. Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd and Margy Tripp
  2. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp and David Powlison
  3. Don’t Make me Count to Three! By Ginger Plowman
  4. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
  5. Gospel Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting by William Farley
  6. My Life for Yours: A Walk Though the Christian Home by Douglas Wilson
  7. Standing on the Promises: A Handbook of Biblical Childrearing by Douglas Wilson
  8. Future Men by Douglas Wilson
  9. Federal Husband by Douglas Wilson
  10. Reforming Marriage by Douglas Wilson

In closing, there is one other set of books that Kendall and I have found to have immeasurable worth. These books have also become a fun way to share with our daughter about her weak areas of obedience. We love reading to her The Berenstain Bears. They are so helpful when a particular area of obedience becomes a weakness for a child. Just the other night we read to our daughter The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV, in order to help her better understand why mommy and daddy are limiting her TV activity. Right now Chick-Fil-A is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Berenstain Bears by including them in their kid’s meals for a limited time.

Parents Who Pastor


Today’s post is by Joey Cochran. Joey is married to Kendall, has two children (Chloe and Asher), and serves as a pastor at Fellowship Bible Church Tulsa. Joey blogs regluarly at jtcochran.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeyCochran.

We are parents before we are pastors. I do not mean to say that every pastor has a child before he takes up the vocation of pastoring. Nor do I mean to say that you have to be a parent to be a pastor. However, it is interesting to observe that the norm and expectation in 1 Timothy and Titus is that an elder is one who is married and has children. I do not wish to get into the minutia of elder/pastor distinctions, qualifications and roles. What I do intend to illustrate is that for the parent-pastor, the primary and prerequisite ministry as a pastor is the ministry as the parent.

The day that I wrote this guest post for Aaron happens to be a Sunday. And on this morning before I ever pulled into my parking spot at the Church, I parented my daughter before I pastored God’s people. I carried her downstairs from her bed. I served her breakfast. I disciplined her for impolite behavior and I commended her for correcting her attitude. I held her and I kissed her goodbye. Of course I did not parent alone. My beautiful bride and help-mate partnered with me in this task, but it is critical that I played a crucial role in the process. I do not wish for my daughter to grow up thinking, “Daddy is the pastor. Mommy is the parent.”

No, pastors have without excuse for abdicating the role of parenting. In spite of how busy a pastor’s schedule is, how many meetings, programs and lessons to teach, counseling sessions and elder meetings to attend, the pastor must shepherd his home well before he can shepherd God’s church.

My first exposure to the work of Douglas Wilson was many years ago when our young married’s small groups studied Reforming Marriage. In this short and extremely helpful book Wilson explains, “Because the husband is the head of the wife, he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. If he attempts to abdicate in some way, he may, through his rebellion, lead poorly (Wilson, 24).” In like manner, the parent who pastors is either an excellent parent or a poor parent, but they are a parent nonetheless. Each time the pastor does not find it opportune for their child to need parenting, and thus passes on the responsibility to his spouse it sends a blaring message to his children that they were not important enough to experience tough love. But remarkably tough love is where our children experience the fullest picture of fatherhood. Moreover, as children experience the tough love of their earthly father they can best understand the oft-misunderstood character of God the Father in the Old Testament.

So, parent who pastors, parent your child in the foyer of the Church, in the hallway outside your office, in the parking lot, at the restaurant, in the park, at the zoo, in the retail center, and especially in your home. Correct the behavior and commend the corrected behavior. Love well and cherish your children. This is a model to the church, who desperately needs a parenting model today more than another class on how to count to three.

Total Depravity and Parenting

Today’s post is by my friend Dan Darling. Dan is the senior pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church and author of numerous books. His latest, Real: Owning Your Christian Faith, will be released July 3, 2012.

A few year ago, I took my family on a tour of the Jelly Bean factory in nearby Kenosha Wisconsin. I was fascinated by how a single jelly bean is chemically engineered, created by machines, perfectly formed, stamped, inspected, and dropped into a bag with other perfectly formed candy creations.

I love assembly lines. They have revolutionized American production.

But they are lousy systems when it comes to raising godly children, because faith in the next generation cannot be mass produced. It must be hand-crafted, carefully formed, and breathed into life by the Holy Spirit.

Much Christian parenting assumes the assembly line approach. We wrongly interpret Proverbs 22:6 as a formula and parent with results-oriented angst.

Then we wonder why our systems are “not working.” Are we not being consistent enough in discipline? Should we use timeouts instead of corporal punishment? Perhaps we are in the wrong church?

We search for the perfect model. We are constantly “tweaking the system.”  But our kids are not balance sheets. They are human souls born completely depraved.

So what they need is not a better system, but the gospel. We shouldn’t be surprised when they sin, because sin is sown into the fabric of their fallen hearts.

A gospel approach to parenting has three liberating effects:

First, it relieves parents of the pressure to produce.

If heart change is solely a work of the Holy Spirit, then parents can only influence their children. We can’t actually change their hearts. That’s work only God can do. So we apply the Scriptures to our children, not because there is a guarantee of success, but as an act of obedience and faith. We become a partner with the Holy Spirit in the spiritual formation of our children.

Secondly, it prepares our children for a life of dependence and repentance.

Our kids don’t need a better chore chart, they need a Savior. They don’t need Dr. Phil’s ten tips for terrible two’s. They need the gospel. And the sooner they realize their desperation and need of grace, the sooner their hearts are open to the sanctifying work of the Spirit.

Third, we give our children space to wrestle, repent, and find God in a personal way.

Naturally parents want to iron any potential struggle in their children’s lives. But each soul, regardless of background and heritage, must wrestle with God in a personal way. Only parents who yield control of their children’s hearts to the Spirit will create the space in the home for honest conversations about God and faith.

Bottom line: Discipleship is not an assembly line. It cannot be mass-produced. Every single child enters the world with a sin defect and needs the gospel of Jesus to being the work of heart transformation.

Jesus, The Bible and You

Throughout history, the church has rarely seen an attack on the inerrancy, inspiration and authority of the Bible of the magnitude of modern debates—debates which really only gained academic credibility in the last two centuries and popular consensus within the last generation. And make no mistake, the attack against inerrancy is inextricably linked to inspiration—certainly in the way we have traditionally responded to our critical scholars. By proving the words of the Bible are accurate, we are, at the very least implicitly, answering the attack on the inerrancy of Scripture. Therefore, the answers to inerrancy and inspiration will be given together.

Inspiration, like its sister doctrine, inerrancy, is not something invented by theologians and forced on the church—the arguments for them arise from the Bible and are based upon the internal consistency of the Bible. And make no mistake, the Scriptures are equated with God’s revelation in words (Matt. 19:4-5; Heb. 3:7; Acts 4:24-25; see also 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21).

This truth is something that we have seen throughout this series, most recently in Aaron’s post offering a definition of verbal plenary inspiration. My goal in this post is to build upon these truths we’ve already discussed by addressing the question of how Jesus understood (and understands) the Bible before looking at four important conclusions on the matter of why this doctrine really does matter.

How Jesus Understood (and Understands) the Bible

As we look to Scripture, it’s crystal clear that Jesus recognized the authority and inerrancy of Scripture—indeed, the way he uses it explicitly affirms their inspiration. He made constant appeal to it when tempted by Satan (Matt. 4:1-11) and used it often in his ministry to defend his actions (Matt. 11:15-17, 26:54-56). This demonstrates the authority Jesus placed in the Scriptures, but we are not left to make assumptions on the basis of Jesus’ actions alone. He, on at least four occasions taught the Scriptures in such a way as to make clear His position on inerrancy.

In a confrontation with the Sadducees over the doctrine of the resurrection, which that group denied, Jesus silenced His opposition, arguing the entire resurrection belief on the tense of a simple verb, “to be” (Matt. 22:32). Jehovah had told Moses at the burning bush, “I am the God of Abraham,” but as Jesus implied, Abraham had been dead 480 years when the statement was made. Arguing that God was the God of the living, not the dead, Jesus claimed life after death must be true. Jesus used the tense of a verb to prove Abraham was not simply physically dead, but was living in the presence of God. The fact that Jesus used a word and it’s tense to demonstrate His deep confidence in inspiration and inerrancy. [Read more…]

A Biblical Battle Plan for Faithful Street Ministry

Artur Pawlowski. Street Church. Are these names ringing a bell? Depending on your theological convictions, they may be actually sounding an alarm. Many Canadian Christians already know about brother Artur’s “evangelistic escapades” in Calgary, Alberta, over the past six years—actions which have lead to his repeated injunctions, fines, and arrests. A recent National Post article gave him national (and international) attention as he voiced his frustration over the treatment he’s received from police versus that of the Occupy movement protestors.

Though this article is not in an endorsement of Artur’s ministry, it seems that he and I do share something in common: persecution for our faith right here at home.

As a minister of the Gospel, I too have been forced from street corners and threatened with arrest by local law enforcement. I have also been sucker punched while preaching open air. Doing spiritual battle always carries a cost…even when the mission field is right here in Canada.

But how does a good soldier of Christ Jesus both tactically and tactfully please the One who enlisted him, effectively reach out to the lost, sincerely respect authorities, and do so all without compromising the core Truth of the mission?

After years of experience, I have come to believe that biblically and culturally balanced street ministry in North America may be best modeled after what have been called the “three worlds” of Paul the Apostle.

Paul’s “Three Worlds”

The Cross Current (TCC) equips local missionaries to preach the Gospel specifically in the context of our increasingly complex North American culture.

TCC’s training is based on the ministry demonstrated by Paul the Apostle. As an evangelist to the Gentiles, Paul has been appropriately called the “man of three worlds” – an expert in the Scriptures, false beliefs, and rights of Roman citizenship.

This “tripod” of training expertise enabled Paul to be a fruitful and faithful witness predominantly in the context of a Greek (Acts 17) culture, much like ours today.

First, street ministers need to accurately apply the Scriptures. As a Jew, Hebrew of Hebrews, and former Pharisee (Phil. 3:5), Paul was masterful in his handling of Scripture in both evangelism and discipleship. As faith and regeneration come only by God’s sovereign grace through hearing His Word (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 10:17; 1 Pt. 1:23), street ministers must resist the pull towards pragmatism and “culturally relevant” preaching by constantly placing their trust in the power of the foolish preaching of the cross.

Second, street ministers need to biblically defend against false belief systems. As a Greek thinker, Paul demonstrated exceptional dexterity in boldly confronting the false belief systems of his day with the truth of Christ, yet always doing so with sensitivity and diplomacy (Acts 17). As ones called to bear witness to exclusive Truth amidst an academically charged culture steeped in philosophical/religious pluralism, street ministers must develop an appropriate balance of both presuppositional and evidential apologetics.

Preaching Christ in Canada, eh?

Granted, while the first two aforementioned Pauline “worlds” are hopefully very obvious to today’s street ministers, it’s been my experience that the third is rarely (if ever) explored. And that is that street ministers must know how to legally leverage their rights as citizens. In several instances, Scripture testifies to how Paul’s timely appeal of his Roman citizenship not only spared him further persecution, but also furthered His God-given mission of evangelizing the Gentiles (Acts 16:37; 22:25). Undoubtedly, this vital component of Paul’s public preaching ministry is the most often overlooked. [Read more…]